Profit from the Positive: Book Brief and Interview
Authors Margaret Greenberg, MAPP and Senia Maymin, PhD have broken down their thoughtful findings into three main parts. The first is devoted to you as a leader, describing techniques for being more productive, how to be more resilient and emotionally in-control, and how to capitalize on your strengths as a leader. The second part discusses the team. It details often-missed aspects of hiring, how to engage your employees, and how to change “the usual” practices of meetings and performance reviews to create more value. The last part helps you put it into practice. I’ll give you a few examples of their strategies below, along with some snippets from our interview with author Senia Maymin. (The full interview will be available soon!)
1. Want to increase productivity? Don’t finish your work
It’s called the Zeigernik Effect; it says that unfinished tasks are better remembered than completed ones. Leave something unfinished from the day before in order to kick start your productivity on that task the next morning. Your mind tends to wander to and keep chewing on open-goals. If you’ve got one staring at you in the morning when you sit down, you’ll be able to jump right in and get to work. (After just a few days of testing, we can report that it has helped us cut down on several hours of morning web-surfing.)
2. Take more time off to get more done
This one is quite comforting: people are more productive when they have scheduled time off. At the behest of Harvard researchers, several Boston Consulting teams switched to a four-day work week. The teams were also told they couldn’t check their work email or voicemail during certain hours. The teams actually accomplished more in less time.
3. Don’t tell them they did a “good job”
Instead, give Frequent Recognition and Encouragement (FRE). Simply saying “good job” every now and then doesn’t inspire people to do a better job. Specific feedback about the process (rather than about the person) with some underlying empathy is key.
Ex: “I really appreciate the time and attention you put into analyzing those reports when I know you had a lot of other responsibilities.”
This kind of recognition and encouragement “was found to increase self-confidence and resilience in employees” as well as creating an increase of 42% in productivity. You might already do this to some extent, but FRE often gets lost as stress enters the picture -- so thinking about it as a tool you can put to use can really help you to keep up the habit. (BTW, included in the book is a survey that you can give your employees to find out if they are receiving FRE.)
4. Caution: perfectionism can drive procrastination
Here’s Senia’s advice to help overcome this common affliction:
Set limits. For example, if you need to write a blog, tell yourself that you’ll write for only 30 minutes or until 500 words. Having limits helps keep your perfectionist in check by keeping things from feeling daunting and infinite.
Start anywhere and start small. By small, we mean really small. For example, if want to run a marathon but don’t have the habit of running, start by walking to the end of the block the same time each day for one week. Senia suggests that, even if we don’t know how a whole project is going to unfold, we should make a start anyway, “and that start may not be the start that you end up using.” But that’s okay. It will get you moving.
5. Beware of the familiar
“People tend to fly to the familiar, especially when they’re under pressure. So, if you are… rushing to the airport, and you really need to get there fast, and you know that you always take this route, even if you look on Google Maps and it tells you your route is going to take longer than this other route, most people will still take their own route…[This is] because they are very stressed out, and it’s comforting to do something that’s familiar. Which is a mistake!” It’s often not beneficial to stick to the familiar, even though it makes us feel safer. We need to get in the habit of doing what is going to be better and more productive, even if it’s uncomfortable.
What ‘s the biggest thing you can do as a leader is in order to create positive change in your organization? Senia says it involves a blend of the ingredients in her book:
Organize a support posse: “You should speak to the key people who you think can help you on that goal.”
Tell them what you believe. (For example, that giving more FRE is important).
Tell them why you believe it. (Such as, the research shows it increases productivity by 40%).
Tell them the specific actions you, as the leader, are going to take (In this case, maybe noticing what’s right in one of your team members three days a week).
And request the one or two actions that you’d like them to take.
And feel free to go undercover -- no need to announce “we’re going to be doing things differently” -- just do them!
There are about 30 different techniques and tools like these outlined in the book. For more goodness, get your own copy of Profit from the Positive and start working better!
Senia Maymin, Ph.D., is the co-author of Profit from the Positive. She has been featured in the media—including PBS’s This Emotional Life, Business Week, Public Radio International, and USA Today—primarily for her work as a positive psychology executive coach. Senia holds a BA in Math and Economics from Harvard, a Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA and PhD in Organizational Behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She speaks Russian, French, and Japanese. She lives with her family in California. You can visit the research news website that she co-founded at www.PositivePsychologyNews.com, the coaches network at www.PositiveCoaches.net, and her personal website at www.senia.com.
Her co-author, Margaret Greenberg is a sought after executive coach by Fortune 500 companies. In 1997, after a fifteen year career in corporate HR, she founded The Greenberg Group, a consulting firm dedicated to coaching business leaders and their teams to achieve more than they ever thought possible. A pioneer in the field of positive psychology, Greenberg also designs and leads workshops, webinars, and conferences for business audiences and is an expert on creating strengths-based organizations. Greenberg’s research has been featured in the popular Gallup Management Journal and she is a regular business contributor at www.PositivePsychologyNews.com. She has also been interviewed by national media outlets in the US (Entrepreneur Magazine) and Canada (The Globe and Mail). She holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Hartford, a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania, and is recognized by the International Coach Federation as a professional certified coach. Greenberg lives in Connecticut with her husband and two dogs. They have two grown daughters. For more information, visit Greenberg’s website at www.thegreenberggroup.org.